The St. Louis Cardinals 2011 schedule is out, which gives us our first idea of the contours of next year's baseball season. It's always hard to say, of course, how things will shake out—the 2010 version of this post would only have mentioned the Cincinnati Reds to allow for a customary Scott Rolen standing ovation. But now the season has a shape—March to September, instead of April to October—and a beginning, March 31 against San Diego, and an end, September 28 at the Houston Astro-non-dome. Here are five moments that seem interesting from our vantage in the distant past, with the caveat that this is like the guy who carved the Willendorf Venus predicting which women will be considered attractive tomorrow.
5. St. Louis Cardinals at Camden Yards, June 28-30
It's amazing that they're still letting new interleague configurations trickle out more than a decade down the road, but this is the first time the Cardinals have ever played the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. That's interesting in its own right—we have Camden Yards to blame for the proliferation of retro ballparks that eventually invaded St. Louis, and the Orioles, for all their problems, have several exciting young prospects on their roster.
But this is also the Cardinals' first-ever visit to the adopted hometown of their Chuck Cunningham'd brother franchise, the St. Louis Browns. I don't think there are a lot of fans of George Sisler, Ken Williams, or Buster Stephens left, but I get misty-eyed at the thought of them getting misty-eyed at the thought of this 1944 World Series rematch.
4. April 8-17: The Cardinals hit the road
Prepare to miss the first hour of at least one of these games—after six games at home the Cardinals will leave Busch Stadum for 10 games on the West Coast, against the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Careful time zone examination is a must.
The Cardinals, in fact, spend most of April on the road—they'll get 12 games at home against 15 on the road, and it's even worse in May. If they can come out of that uneven moment with a winning record, they'll have an easier schedule to deal with when they try not to repeat this year's late-season collapse. Which would be great.
3. Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals, June 3-5
The Cardinals will have already been to Chicago, at this point, and they'll have hosted everybody else in the division. But the weekend of June 3 marks the first time in 2011 that Cubs fans will make the trek to St. Louis and then complain about the postgame scene afterward.
By June we should have an idea of the shape of these hereditary rivals' seasons. These three games could mean nothing for either party concerned, or they could be crucial games in the midseason standings. I'm hoping that they mean first place for the Cardinals and a potential managerial change for the Cubs, but I'll have to wait and see.
2. September 12-28: Cardinals get 10 of 16 on the road
The team will have just come off a long homestand when this happens, but this could still be trouble if the standings are close coming around the home stretch. The Cardinals will finish a series with Atlanta on Sunday the 11th and then visit Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before final home series against the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. Then they'll head out to Houston, where the Astros will no doubt be in the middle of their 15th consecutive late season surge. The season ends September 28th at Minute Maid.
The Reds—I knew you were wondering—will play their last six games on the road, against the Pirates and the Mets. That'll come just after most of the NL Central makes one last trip through Great American Ballpark; the Cubs, Brewers, and Astros will play 10 games there from the 12th to the 21st.
Neither team seems to have a major schedule advantage here, but there's a lot still to learn about these teams—both the Cardinals and the Reds and the teams they'll be playing in September.
1. Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals, April 22-24
The Cardinals will get just one look at an NL Central team—the Pirates, April 4-6—before heading on their first extended road trip to the NL West. When they return, they'll be greeted in this weekend series by none other than the Cincinnati Reds, who appear to have taken the place of the Houston Astros as the hated-rivals of convenience, and not tradition.
Brandon Phillips will be in town! The Reds will be back from what appears to be a foregone-conclusion trip to the NLDS! St. Louis fans will not be happy to see them! The Cardinals-Cubs rivalry is fun, at least until the Cubs fans get drunk and make asses of themselves around the seventh inning sales cut-off; the Cardinals-Reds rivalry will be business. And there will be fewer Reds fans, which I can appreciate.